Low patient numbers stir bankruptcy fears for Illinois marijuana dispensaries

Emily Gray Brosious

Illinois medical marijuana dispensaries say they need more patients to stay in business.

Illinois’ medical marijuana program became operational in November, and dispensaries are already raising concerns that they may not stay afloat much longer unless more patients are enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program, as reported by The Daily Herald.

There are roughly 4,000 patients currently approved to purchase medical cannabis in Illinois, and 20 dispensaries licensed to sell cannabis to qualified patients.

Business owners say they need patient numbers to rise to at least 20,000 in the next six months.

Buffalo Grove dispensary owner Joseph Friedman told The Daily Herald that his business is seeing less than a handful of patients each day.

“If this is the trend, with one to three patients a day, we’ll go out of business,” Friedman said.

Operators point to the states’s tightly restricted  medical cannabis program for low patient numbers.

Illinois’ medical cannabis program is one of the strictest in the country and only qualifies patients suffering from serious conditions, including cancer and HIV/AIDS, for marijuana treatment. The state does not qualify patients suffering from more common conditions such as chronic pain or sleep disorders.

Industry experts say Illinois could easily address low patient numbers by simply adding chronic pain to the list of qualifying conditions, as reported by High Times.

Per High Times:

Statistics show that the majority of the patients in states like Arizona and Colorado are using medical marijuana for this reason. In fact, while Minnesota health officials would probably deny it, “intractable pain” was recently added to its list of qualified conditions in an effort to keep its program from crashing into a pit of total failure.

Medical marijuana advocates are currently working to expand the Illinois’ medical marijuana program to include eight additional conditions, including PTSD, autism and chronic pain.

A Change.org petition calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner and state health officials to add the eight conditions has received nearly 18,000 signatures in just two about weeks, and even prominent medical marijuana advocates like Melissa Etheridge are echoing the call.

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View gallery: 10 powerful testimonies calling to expand medical marijuana access in Illinois

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[h/t Tom Angell]

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